Our log cabin in the Rocky Mountains is separated from the rest of society. We're close enough to a small town, but not close enough for me to go to school there, so my mom stays home and schools me. Dad supports us by hunting.
Dad is friends with everyone, always doing great business and being very fair. That's the only dad I know. He only has one enemy, and that's this one grizzly bear that lives near our property.
This bear rummages through our garbage and knocks it over repetitively. He steals the game out of the rivers. He has been my dad's only enemy since I can remember.
The one morning that would change my life forever started like a normal day. I came down from my attic room and went to the table, where Mom was laying out flapjacks and a bottle of homemade maple syrup. Dad came in with a stack of wood and laid it on the fire.
"Jack," he said to me, "I think it is about time you came with me on one of my hunts."
"Really, Dad? What? When?" I asked, so excited that I wiggled in my seat.
"Now, now, calm down," Dad replied. "That Old Grizzly has knocked over our garbage again. I think it's time that he's stopped."
"Good idea, Dad," I replied. "Your trusty rifle will get the job done, no problem."
"I thought you would think so. I was thinking about going out after breakfast."
He didn't need to say any more. I was already wolfing down my flapjacks at the speed of light.
I threw on my backpack as my dad grabbed his old rifle from the holder on the wall and headed out to the place where we know that the Old Grizzly lived. When we got there, Dad told me to hide in the bushes, and then he fired a shot into the air.
Being the curious bear that he was, Old Grizzly came out to see what the commotion was. The minute he saw Dad, he growled. That growl took one second. That was all my dad needed. He had the gun up and ready. There was a loud BOOM, and then I saw my dad's old rival fall to the ground, a bullet in his heart. There were a couple small growls, and then there was complete silence, as if the whole world had stopped for this particular moment.
Dad walked over to Old Grizzly's body and started to pick it up to drag it home, when, suddenly, he heard a noise. He turned around, his eyes opened real wide, and he froze. It was a cub.
I understood why Old Grizzly had been knocking over our garbage. He was really a she, and she had a cub. A growing cub needed lots of extra food, I'd heard. She wasn't a nuisance, she was a mother. And my dad had killed her.
My dad just stood there, as if in a trance. He watched as the cub ran over to his mother and nudged her with its paw. When there was no reaction, it sat on its behind and cried. The sound of an orphaned cub could be heard across the Rocky Mountains.
I stepped out of the bushes and the bear scampered back into the cave. I said, "Dad, what's going to happen to the cub?"
Dad got a fierce look in his eyes like I've never seen before. "There is no cub," he whispered angrily, taking a hold of my arm and squeezing, hard. Then, without a backward glance, he turned around and marched away.
I took a tuna sandwich that I had packed into my backpack in case the hunt took a while and offered it to the cub. It came over and ate it. When it was done eating, the cub looked up at me as if to say, "Well, what now?"
"I don't know," I said. What can I do? "I just don't know."